It is easy to forget about the effect that good digestion has on your body until you find yourself in a position where your digestion is failing. Let me tell you, poor digestion is neither pretty nor comfortable.
Good health starts in the gut–in fact 70% of your immune system is located in the gut. Improving your digestion will not only reduce your risk of disease, but also improve your energy level and even your mood. So why not start by amping up your digestive health with the following foods?
Improving digestive health with fiber
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You have nothing to lose. In order to understand the way good digestion works, it is crucial to understand the importance of fiber.
Fiber comes in two forms: soluble and insoluble; both of which aid in digestive health. Soluble fiber has its name for a reason. It absorbs water in the intestines which, in turn, slows down digestion–keeping you fuller for longer.
Insoluble fiber on the other hand, does not dissolve and therefore bulkens stool, relieving constipation and keeping things moving quickly through your digestive system. Keep these two definitions in mind as you read through the following list of gut-friendly foods because they are guaranteed to come up more than once.
Everyone knows the expression, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. There’s a good reason for that. Apples do their job by providing both soluble and insoluble fiber. The insoluble fiber portion of the apple is called cellulose.
Cellulose is the structural component of the cell wall, which makes it necessary to consume the skin of the fruit in order to reap its benefits. However, if you prefer to peel your apples, the flesh contains a significant amount of water as well. Consuming more apples throughout your day will increase your fluid intake which is an essential part of helping the contents of your stomach pass with ease.
Ginger is no joke
This spicy root may still be unfamiliar. Don’t let that stop you. Ginger is a common ingredient in Asian cuisine and does way more than add a little flavor to your meals.
Some plants, like ginger root, produce phenolic compounds which have many roles in your body. These phenolic compounds in particular reduce feelings of nausea, loss of appetite and motion sickness.
Not only does it stimulate saliva production, but it suppresses stomach muscle contractions as well. If you’re unsure how to incorporate ginger in your diet, try blending it into your smoothie or simply adding it to your water. There is no need to be ginger with portion when adding ginger to your daily routine.
Bananas are yet another fruit you can add to your day to make your stomach happy. There are a number of reasons why bananas contribute to gut health but there are two in particular that you should remember.
Bananas are jam packed with electrolytes. These electrolytes, potassium, magnesium and phosphorous, work together to restore the fluid balance in your 2 stomach after a case of diarrhea. However, if diarrhea isn’t your problem, bananas are also a natural antacid.
Antacids help balance an unusually acidic pH in your stomach. This is something to keep in mind if you are suffering from pain caused by GERD or stomach ulcers.
Although superfoods have had some bad publicity lately, there is certainly nothing bad about chia seeds. Chia seeds are unique in the fact that they are so small and flavorless that you could add them to almost anything.
Believe it or not, just one ounce of these seeds provides 11 grams of fiber. The recommended daily allowance of fiber for women is 28 grams. That makes one ounce of chia seeds nearly 44% of the daily value.
As stated before, soluble fiber absorbs water in the intestines forming a gel-like solution. As the chia soaks up water, it also absorbs toxins from the gut, ultimately protecting your body from harmful contaminants. And, as an added bonus, chia can also curb your appetite.
It probably isn’t very surprising that yogurt made the list of gut-friendly foods. In recent years, yogurt has received favorable attention for containing probiotics.
Though it may sound a little scary, probiotics are actually live bacteria that live inside foods like yogurt. These little organisms are harmless and help pass food through your gut. When you lose bacteria in your intestines after taking antibiotics, yogurt will help restore this “good” bacteria.
Consuming more probiotics will also decrease the amount of “bad” bacteria in your system that can cause diseases or infections. Recognize that not all brands of yogurts contain probiotics- though they are not hard to find it is useful to do your research before heading to the grocery store.
Don’t Fear Kefir
Perhaps more foreign than the chia seed is a grain called kefir (pronounced “ka-feer”). What makes this functional food different from others is its fermented qualities. When mixed with milk, kefir dramatically changes the texture and flavor, turning it into a yogurt-like substance.
Within this yogurt, are living colonies of lactobacillus. This bacteria in particular digests the lactose in milk which may be the culprit of your poor digestion.
It also enhances the digestion of other nutrients on top of synthesizing vitamins like vitamin B12 and vitamin K. Though this ancient fermented milk product has more benefits than one, it may be an acquired taste.
Just a Hint of Mint
I’m sure you are familiar with peppermint as a flavor additive in many gums, toothpastes, and teas. But did you know that peppermint can be used to treat indigestion? The way it works is that when peppermint is consumed it relaxes the muscles in the stomach and helps bile flow more freely, which is used to digest fats.
By relaxing the muscles in your intestines, it makes it easier for painful gas to pass. Try adding peppermint leaves to your iced tea, and keep in mind that supplemental peppermint can also be found at your local pharmacy.
Fish Oil for the Better
If you haven’t already noticed, the consumption of fish oil supplements has become a trend in recent years. What makes fish oil different from other oils – like canola oil, soybean oil, and safflower oil- is the way it is absorbed in your system.
When you consume fats from butter or other vegetable oils, you are consuming long chain fatty acids. Due to their large structure, these are not easily metabolized in the body. What sets fish oil apart, is that it is composed of omega-3 fatty acids or medium chain fatty acids.
These medium chains are significantly smaller than long chain fatty acids and are more readily absorbed. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties which can be used to heal irritable symptoms in the gut. Though a supplement might seem easier, try eating fish once or twice a week as an alternative to other protein sources.
Whether you suffer from irritating digestive issues or not, now is the time to integrate more gut-friendly foods into your diet. These eight simple foods should be a kick starter to a healthier, more wholesome diet.
In no time you will find yourself with more energy, less stress and in a much happier mood. The sooner you start, the better you’ll feel!